On this date, 18 years ago, fast-living Hollywood producer Don Simpson was found dead in his Bel-Air home. Autopsies found an unlucky 21 different drugs in his system including cocaine, prescription anti-depressants, and sedatives. More than anyone else, he had connected the MTV generation with the big budget Hollywood blockbuster. One million shots of helicopters against sunsets later, we look back.
At the time of his death, Simpson had recently ended his partnership with Jerry Bruckheimer. The two men had together produced several of the most financially successful films of the 1980s — Flashdance (1983), Beverly Hills Cop (1984), Top Gun (1986), Beverly Hills Cop II (1987) — and in the year prior to their split had experienced a return to success with the Walt Disney Corporation with Bad Boys, Crimson Tide and Dangerous Minds (all 1995).
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Much of their films’ success could be attributed to their adapting the burgeoning MTV and video game culture to the big screen, and then taking the end product and mashing it up to market it right back to that very same culture. Thus it is only fitting to pay recognition to Simpson (as well as providing a good alternative to watching the replay timeout commercials during the NFL Conference Championship games by compiling a list of his most outrageous soundtrack videos from his blockbusters, all viewable via FilmOn.
Flashdance : “Maniac” by Michael Sembello
The video that set the tone for what was to come. It’s all there — the welding, the legwarmers, the body (and dancing) doubles, strobe-lights, buckets of water and office chairs, Pittsburgh (subbing for Toronto, where the real life version of Jennifer Beals’ Alex Owens resided).
Beverly Hills Cop: “The Heat Is On” by Glenn Frey
This one takes “Maniac” a few steps further by featuring both Frey and ‘band’ performing the Harold Faltermeyer/Keith Forsey composition (Faltermeyer also wrote the iconic instrumental “Axel F”), as well as a Thomas Dolby-ish actor smarmily portraying an editor who is self-referentially inter-splicing all the film clips (including Eddie Murphy’s Axel Foley tossing Breaking Bad and new Community member Jonathan Banks across a buffet table) to accent and impact his own performance.
Top Gun: “Take My Breath Away (Love Theme From Top Gun)” by Berlin
The apex and convergence of the flight patterns; New wave ghosts Berlin get a new lease on life via Giorgio Moroder (as well as Tom Cruise and Kelly McGinnis and Tony Scott--who would become another Hollywood tragedy with his 2012 suicide. Wandering around the Mojave Desert’s Aircraft Boneyard, lead vocalist Teri Nunn channels Blondie, Stevie Nicks and Candy Clark while the video channels Close Encounters of the Third Kind and pre-sages the corn outfield scene in Field of Dreams.
Top Gun: “Danger Zone” by Kenny Loggins
Moroder again helps keep a career alive, this time for former Yacht-rock admiral and ‘king of the movie soundtracks’ Kenny Loggins. The video, shot and edited by Scott, focuses on the film’s tragic story arc of ‘Maverick’ and ‘Goose’ around the Miramar Naval Air Base near San Diego. Additional footage is shot of Loggins in a hotel room, looking like Howard Jones trying to do Martin Sheen’s freak-out scene from Apocalypse Now with a progressively worsening case of Tijuana-acquired tourista.
Dangerous Minds: “Gangster’s Paradise” by Coolio
From the twilight of the Simpson/Bruckheimer Empire, this prophetic video appears to have star Michelle Pfeiffer hanging with Coolio post-freebase in a crack house basement. Coolio takes the opportunity to give the increasingly petulant Pfeiffer some proper schooling as Stevie Wonder loops into infinite royalties.
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Watch oldschool music videos on Vintage Music TV on FilmOn:
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